The saying goes, “the only constant in life is change.” Think about how much change you’ve experienced in the last twenty years.
According to Psychology Today, the overall pace of life has increased by 10% worldwide since the mid-90’s. Twenty years ago, we had no idea the iPhone would change the way we interact with the world, from children to elderly adults. Bill Gates said it would never last!
Today’s business environment is no longer a “constant state of change,” but rather a turbulent and chaotic atmosphere. This environment and the unprecedented pace of change is known as VUCA.
The term VUCA came from the United States Army, and stands for:
- Volatile – the accelerating rate of change. There are faster cycles, less stability, and turbulence.
- Uncertain – the lack of predictability. A VUCA environment is full of doubt and is often unfamiliar territory.
- Complex – the interconnectedness of things and people. Think of a car. Sometimes it can run, even if a part doesn’t work. Or, that one part can easily be replaced to make that complicated machine run. Now, think of a cake. If you bake a cake without eggs, it’s not going to be a cake. Or, once you mix in the eggs, you can’t pull them back out. This is complex, and without all the ingredients, it won’t “work.”
- Ambiguous – the potential for misreads. A VUCA environment is less precise, and it has more perspectives and more room for “grey.”
Navigating VUCA means being comfortable with moving forward without a comprehensive strategy. What worked in the past is not necessarily what is going to work today or tomorrow. We can see examples of VUCA in our lives every day – think of political unrest in so many countries. Or how about the advancement of science in curing disease?
Do you see VUCA in your business environment? It may appear in accounting with forecasting – or more so in the lack of forecasting. Long-term forecasts aren’t accurate and useful in today’s businesses due to the speed of change. A VUCA environment requires you to be innovative, because without it your competition will leave you behind.
There are several things an organization can do to thrive in a VUCA world, beginning with building a trusting culture with transparent communication and leadership presence. The organization must also tear down silos and make employees and departments interconnected.
To thrive in a VUCA environment, it is best to focus on continual learning. Employees need to be empowered to make quick, informed decisions and to pivot fast if the decision is not the right one. They need to feel safe to make mistakes without retribution.
Being a learning environment means investing in the development of your employees. Development that is relevant by level, focuses on the business context, and has some personalization integrated, will be the most successful.
What about leaders? How can they thrive in a VUCA world? They must be agile and have a growth mindset. They build trust and are change agents. Piece of cake, right?
What steps do you take if you aren’t equipped in these areas? PRADCO can assist in strengthening leaders with personalized development. Research suggests that personalized learning is what will help leaders develop most successfully in VUCA environments. This may look like coaching engagements, or supplementing training programs with peer mentors. Project work that focuses on the business context and puts different roles and levels together is an excellent way to develop team members to be resilient and agile.
Although anxious to see early results, understand that many of these efforts will need time to fully develop. It is extremely important to have patience, as excellence in a VUCA environment takes time. It requires strong leadership and agile, resilient team members who are all dedicated to being learning leaders who persevere in the face of resistance and setbacks.